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Tuesday, October 23, 2012
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Social Media’s Influence on TV Programming: Good Or Bad?

By Carson Blackwelder
Television Contributor


Social media users are increasingly becoming good partners to TV, helping to spread the word about which series are critically adored and popular. But like every relationship, there are some negative aspects, too.

Unfortunately, networks using social media as inspiration for shows is one of them.

NBC recently ordered a pilot based on 24-year-old Emma Koenig‘s Tumblr account entitled, “Fuck! I’m in My Twenties,” which already spawned a book. The site features drawn images filled with sarcasm and insight about quarter-life crises. The show will follow a young woman in her twenties as she navigates her way in New York City. Sound familiar, fans of HBO’s Girls?

This announcement comes just two days after CBS ordered a comedy based on another Tumblr, and the source of inspiration for it comes from yet another twenty-something woman. On deck for this pilot is Lauren Bachelis‘ blog entitled “#hollywoodassistants.” The show will be called 20-Nothings and will center on a group of five young women who are — yep, you guessed it — Hollywood assistants.

Though it isn’t certain these shows will air, past shows inspired by witty social media accounts have proven unsuccessful, and additional series plans have emerged all the while.

In 2010, Twitter was a big player when CBS ordered $#*! My Dad Says, a series based on the Twitter feed “Shit My Dad Says.” Justin Halpern, who writes the account, co-created the comedy. The series starred William Shatner as the aforementioned dad, and his son was played by Jonathan Sadowski.

The popularity of the Twitter account, which has over 3 million followers, didn’t translate to TV success, as the comedy was canceled after only 18 episodes. Halpern moved on to another failed CBS comedy, How to Be a Gentleman, and is working with NBC’s Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence to adapt his book I Suck at Girls for Fox.

Tipping the scales in favor of ridiculousness is CBS’s ordering of a reality show based on the mobile game Draw Something. The network is turning to Fox’s American Idol host and E!’s Keeping Up with the Kardashians producer Ryan Seacrest to make something out of what seems to be nothing. The show has yet to hire a host, and Seacrest will not participate in an on-air capacity.

It’s interesting to note that CBS is the biggest player in the movement of taking ideas from social media and mobile apps and trying to turn them into hits. With CBS in the No. 1 spot in terms of total viewers, the network could lose dominance if all of these ideas make it to TV and turn into major missteps.

It seems the quick, short-attention span of a social media account doesn’t translate into a 30-minute episode, let alone an entire season. Based on the success, or lack thereof, of $#*! My Dad Says, the niches Tumblr and Twitter accounts fill online become trite on the tube.

Conversely, the Internet has been a boon to struggling series. NBC’s The Office survived due to viewers catching up through iTunes, and early online previews of shows help establish loyal followings before programs even air. It’s just unfortunate the relationship between TV and the Internet doesn’t appear to be a two-way street.

What do you think of social media accounts spawning TV shows? Can it work? History has suggested otherwise, but perhaps it all depends on the creative mind given the chance to adapt the story.

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